Offshore Wind Energy for Humboldt County
Humboldt County’s expansive coastline is home to one of the greatest offshore wind resources in the nation. Turbines spinning off the North Coast could potentially produce more than 150% of the state’s current demand for electricity with renewable, carbon-free power. Humboldt County has been featured in local, national, and international news since 2018 as a potentially ideal location for offshore wind energy generation. RCEA, tasked with developing local renewable resources and energy-related economic advancement, has been leading an extensive planning and research process for what could be California’s first floating offshore wind project.
In May 2021, the Biden-Harris Administration announced an agreement to advance areas for offshore wind off the northern (Humboldt County) and central coasts of California. This significant milestone is part of the Biden-Harris administration’s goal to create thousands of jobs through the deployment of 30 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind nationally by 2030. The environmental assessment and lease auction process is being managed by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM).
Redwood Coast Offshore Wind Project
The Redwood Coast Offshore Wind Project is an initial commercial-scale project proposed by RCEA and a consortium of developers.
In 2018 RCEA issued a Request for Qualifications for development partners, through which RCEA’s Board of Directors selected a consortium of companies to work with to pursue local offshore wind energy development.
RCEA and the consortium submitted an unsolicited lease application to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), which is responsible for offshore wind energy leases in Federal waters. Although the lease application was not accepted, the lease area proposed by RCEA was subsequently absorbed into the Humboldt Wind Energy Area which will be leased through an auction in late 2022. The consortium later formed a project company, Redwood Coast Offshore Wind LLC, in which RCEA remains a partner.
The project company is working closely with local stakeholders to design a project that minimizes impacts and maximizes local community benefits, should it be awarded a lease. After that, the work of designing and developing a project will take years to complete and will be the product of extensive community collaboration. While conversations with local fishermen, Tribes, environmentalists, labor unions, and government partners are ongoing, our community’s overall response to this prospective project has been supportive. RCEA is committed to advancing the development of our offshore wind resource in a responsible manner that addresses the concerns of the local community and impacts on the environment.
Why Offshore Wind?
- The North Coast has a world-class offshore wind resource
- Floating turbine technology is now available to unlock its potential on the Pacific Coast
- Offshore wind diversifies the renewable energy portfolio needed to cut California’s greenhouse gas emissions
- Humboldt Bay is well suited to serve as a hub for a broader west-coast offshore wind industry
Redwood Coast Offshore Wind Project
- 100-150 MW
- about 25 miles west of Eureka
- 2,000 to 3,600 feet seafloor depth
- Provide competitively priced renewable energy to electric ratepayers
- Prioritize stakeholder engagement and acceptance; identify and address issues of local concern
- Develop responsibly and minimize environmental impacts
- Maximize investment in local infrastructure to develop Humboldt Bay into an industry hub.
Humboldt Wind Energy Area
Selected based on the following factors:
- Approximately 205 square miles to accommodate project size (The ultimate lease blocks will be determined by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management during the 2022 lease auction process)
- Existing commercial fishing and shipping uses
- Wind resource maps
- Wildlife and habitats
- Technical constraints, such as minimizing grid interconnection distance
- 5 to 15 turbines – (TBD based on final project and turbine sizing)
- Anchored to the seabed using synthetic mooring lines
- Inter-array cables connecting turbines to each other
- Export to shore via subsea transmission cable (exact landfall location TBD)
- Interconnection at Humboldt 115kV substation
- The best port site to support the project would be the Redwood Marine Terminal 1 (RMT1). Upgrades would be required; the Humboldt Bay Harbor District is developing a conceptual plan.
For an overview of the design, watch this Windfloat video.
To learn more about the history of offshore wind, how it works, and the steps BOEM takes to work with many stakeholders when planning offshore wind development, watch BOEM’s “Renewable Energy Whiteboard” video
The Project Partners
RCEA works to develop and implement sustainable energy initiatives that reduce energy demand, increase energy efficiency, and advance the use of clean, efficient and renewable resources available in the region for the benefit of the Member agencies and their constituents.
For more on the partnerships and summary of the project, view the Times Standard article “RCEA announces partnership for offshore wind farm”.
Bureau of Ocean Energy Management – California Activities
What About the Fishing Industry?
The North Coast region is home to a commercial fishing industry that provides sustainably-caught seafood to our community and many others. For many generations these commercial fisheries have provided a livelihood for local fishermen and their families, and it continues to be a key element of our region’s economy and local culture.
The Redwood Offshore Wind consortium recognizes that a viable commercial fishing industry is integral to the economy and culture of the North Coast and that the development of offshore wind energy will permanently impact the commercial fishing industry economically and culturally. We recognize that such development should be pursued in a manner that minimizes and mitigates impacts to fishing so that both endeavors can sustainably coexist for the benefit of our community. Both the consortium and the Humboldt Fishermen’s Marketing Association agree to cooperate and work together in good faith for the purpose of ensuring that the efforts of RCEA and its project partners to develop a floating offshore wind energy project off the coast of Humboldt County proceed in a way that effectively identifies, avoids, minimizes, and mitigates impacts to the commercial fishing industry to the greatest extent possible.
Memo of Understanding with the Humboldt Fishermen’s Marketing Association and Redwood Coast Offshore Wind
Fishing Community Sustainability Plans – Fishing community sustainability planning for Eureka and Shelter Cove
Fishing Industry Facts:
- Although the number of registered commercial fishing boats in the Humboldt Bay area has declined from approximately 500 in the 1950s to approximately 220 in 2004, the bay is still an important port for commercial fishing.
- More than 500 vessels from other West Coast ports use the bay’s facilities annually. The commercial fishing fleet is based at Woodley Island Marina, the City of Eureka Marina, and to a lesser extent, the private King Salmon Marina (HBHRCD 2007)
- Commercial crab fishing is highly active in nearshore waters off Eureka and makes up the overwhelming majority of Eureka commercial landings and ex-vessel revenue between 1992 and 2014 (Hackett et al. 2017).
- Groundfish trawl fisheries occur at greater depths, generally in water depths less than 600 fathoms (1100 meters), with an average depth of <300 fathoms (550 meters) (Sommers et al. 2016).
- Since 1981, total pounds of all fish landed in Eureka has dropped from a high in 1981 of 36.9 million pounds to on average 1.9 million pounds between 2001 and 2007; most of the decline was due to a decrease in groundfish landings (Pomeroy et al. 2010).
- Eureka City Council focuses on sustainability fishing industry Phillip Santos, Times-Standard, The Eureka City Council turned its attention to the status of the fishing industry at their meeting on Tuesday evening.
- “Facing the Wind” A fisherman’s take on offshore wind, by Ken Bates and Linda Hilderbrand, in the North Coast Journal.
The ecologists and professionals at H. T. Harvey & Associates deliver consulting services to public agencies, private entities, and nonprofit organizations. The mission of H. T. Harvey & Associates is to create ecologically sound solutions to complex natural resource challenges.
Additional Information and Resources
Does RCEA’s long-term contract for 100 MW of solar energy from the Sandrini Sol 1 project preclude RCEA contracting for offshore wind when that becomes available?
RCEA’s goal is to have a diversified power mix, and this long-term solar power purchase agreement is an ideal complement to offshore wind in a number of ways. The solar contract’s price per unit of energy is lower than we expect offshore wind to cost, but offshore wind’s time-of-day production better matches our customer energy demand throughout the day. In addition, the location of the solar project allows it to avoid the transmission access challenge that large-scale renewable energy generation sited in Humboldt County faces, due to our remoteness from the state’s main transmission corridors.
The Sandrini contract helps us meet our near-term SB350 compliance targets, which requires us to secure long-term renewable portfolio standard contracts, and it does so in a very cost-effective way. We could not have waited for offshore wind for this purpose, given the long development timeline. About half of RCEA’s portfolio remains open for long-term contracts.
Secretary Haaland, CEQ Chair Mallory Highlight Offshore Wind Developments in California with Federal, Tribal, State and Local Officials. August 10, 2021. They visited with U.S. Representative Jared Huffman, California Energy Commissioner Karen Douglas, Tribal leaders, and community officials to discuss offshore wind opportunities that will create jobs and strengthen the local economy.
- North Coast Journal – “Offshore Wind Gusts Forward” – A big announcement could see the North Coast open for wind farm bidding next year, by Thadeus Greenson. June 3, 2021.
- North Coast Journal “RCEA Applauds North Coast, Federal Offshore Wind Development Agreement”. May 26, 2021.
- Biden-Harris Administration Advances Offshore Wind in the Pacific May 25, 2021. Departments of the Interior, Defense and the State of California agree to accelerate wind energy offshore the central and northern coasts of California
Newsom’s Budget Includes $11M for Port of Humboldt Bay Development to Support Emerging Offshore Wind Industry Press release from the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District. May 19, 2021
- FACT SHEET: Biden Administration Jumpstarts Offshore Wind Energy Projects to Create Jobs – March 29, 2021. Interior, Energy, Commerce, and Transportation Departments Announce New Leasing, Funding, and Development Goals to Accelerate and Deploy Offshore Wind Energy and Jobs
Aker Solutions, Cognite Awarded Digital Offshore Grant – Aker Solutions, one of RCEA’s offshore wind consortium partners, was awarded a $2 million grant in support of offshore floating wind farms and minimizing their impact on the environment. April 2020.
- My Word: For North Coast economic recovery, look to offshore wind. April 2020.
- Journal Energies published the article “Resource and Load Compatibility Assessment of Wind Energy Offshore of Humboldt County, California“. The article, based on a BOEM-funded study, describes the offshore wind generation profile in the Humboldt Call Area and the compatibility with Humboldt County electric load. The article is free to download. October 31, 2020.
- Windpower Engineering and Development – Offshore wind is (finally) coming to America. RCEA is #4 out of the 8 most significant steps forward for offshore wind in 2018. December 17, 2018.
- NY Times – “Something New May Be Rising Off California Coast: Wind Farms”. October 19, 2018.
- North Coast Journal – “Facing the Wind”. A fisherman’s take on offshore wind, by Ken Bates and Linda Hilderbrand. October 18, 2018.
- San Diego Union Tribune – “Offshore wind farms coming to California — but the Navy says no to large sections of the coast.” May 6, 2018.
- Tina Casey / Clean Technica – “Don’t Mess With California: Floating Offshore Wind Farm Shapes Up As Trump Clamps Down.” April 6, 2018.
- Kallanish Energy – “First floating U.S. wind farm may be built off California.” April 6, 2018.
- Kuow – “California Takes Up Ocean Wind Energy After Oregon Project Fails.” April 4, 2018.
- Reuters – “Group pursuing floating wind farm off California coast.” April 3, 2018.
- North Coast Journal – “In the Wind” cover feature article on Offshore Wind in Humboldt County. February 21, 2018.
Interviews, Webinars, and Audio
- Humboldt tour of the Operating Engineers Local 3 Joint Apprenticeship and Training Center (JATC).
- California Coastal Commission: Informational Briefing and Public Comment on Offshore Wind. Informational briefing and public comment on Offshore Wind excerpted from a virtual meeting of the California Coastal Commission on September 9, 2021.
- Webinar series: Exploring the Feasibility of Offshore Wind Energy for the CA North Coast. The Schatz Center hosted a series of five webinar workshops on the feasibility of offshore wind energy development on California’s north coast. In each webinar, they shared topical findings from their recently conducted studies. After each presentation, there was a moderated panel discussion. Webinar participants were then invited to share their insights, questions, and perspectives. September and October 2020.
- Webinar: Potential Effects of Offshore Renewable Energy: Knowledge and Resources – Recorded April 15, 2020. Hosted by Pacific Ocean Energy Trust with a presentation by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. April 2020
- Interview: Astrid Skarheim Onsum, SVP, Head of Wind, Aker Solutions. Her view on the path ahead and the growing role and promising future of ‘floating wind.’ April 2019.
- Explore North Coast and the Humboldt Bay Aquatic Center – Explore North Coast and the Humboldt Bay Aquatic Center will present a talk in their lecture series Monday featuring Matthew Marshall, executive director of Redwood Coast Energy Authority. His presentation will focus on the potential of an offshore wind energy project. The lecture is scheduled from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Humboldt Bay Aquatic Center, 921, Waterfront Drive. Admission is free. September 10, 2018.
- KHSU Thursday Night Talk – TNT explored the Redwood Coast Energy Authority’s proposal to put a floating offshore wind farm off Humboldt’s coast. The proposal, which would place floating wind turbines ~20-24 miles offcoast, would generate enough power to light all of Humboldt. Guests Lori Biodini of the Redwood Coast Energy Authority and Jen Kalt of Humboldt Baykeeper discussed the proposal and potential environmental impacts, both positive and negative, with host Tom Wheeler. July 2018.
- Pacific Ocean Energy Trust (POET) – Marine Renewable Energy Environmental Regulatory Workshop Report: Moving to Better Information and Risk Retirement
- Jefferson Public Exchange – “North Coast Eyes Offshore Wind Farm,” interview with Lori Biondini of RCEA, Jason Busch of the Pacific Ocean Energy Trust, and Geoffrey Riley. April 24, 2018.
- California Energy Commission – Webinar on Offshore Renewable Energy (audio recording). March 12, 2018.
- KHSU EcoNews Report – Interview with Matthew Marshall and Jen Kalt. February 22, 2018.
- Sustainable Futures Speaker Series – “Do Wind Turbines Make Good Neighbors?” Founder’s Hall 118, at Humboldt State University. Presentation by Joseph Rand, Research Affiliate, Electricity Markets & Policy Group at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. Video archive will be available soon from the HSU Library. February 22, 2018.
- The Humboldt Wind Energy Area (as per BOEM)
- RCEA Memorandum of Understanding with Principle Power
- RCEA Memorandum of Understanding with the Humboldt Fishermen’s Marketing Association
- Request for Qualifications – Offshore Wind Development Partners (closed).
- Notice of Recommendation for Preferred Respondent
Senator McGuire hosted a Joint Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture an offshore wind energy hearing on May 3, 2019 at the Humboldt Bay Aquatic Center in Eureka.
- California’s Fisheries and Wildlife – Can they co-exist with Offshore Wind Energy Development?
- Access Humboldt Channel 11
- The California Offshore Wind Project: A Vision for Industry Growth. The American Jobs Project. Through extensive research and over forty interviews with stakeholders and experts in California, the authors assessed the current challenges and opportunities for offshore wind development. Visit About California to read a summary of the report.
- High Road for Deep Water: Policy Options for a California Offshore Wind Industry by Robert Collier, Center for Labor Research and Education, University of California, Berkeley
- Potential Offshore Wind Energy Areas in California: An Assessment of Locations, Technology, and Costs by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
- West Coast Environmental Monitoring Protocols for Marine Renewable Energy – includes a case study for Humboldt offshore wind.
- Department of the Navy California Offshore Wind Compatibility Assessment. In anticipation of growing interest in developing wind energy projects offshore California, the Department of the Navy has conducted a mission compatibility assessment for the outer continental shelf. The compatibility assessment reflects the requirements of Navy and Marine Corps missions conducted in the air, on the surface, and below the surface of these waters.
- United States Annual Average Wind Speeds. From the National Renewable Energy Lab
- Federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. Responsible for issuing leases for offshore wind energy projects in federal waters, the mission of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is to manage development of U.S. Outer Continental Shelf energy and mineral resources in an environmentally and economically responsible way.
- California Offshore Wind Energy Gateway. A joint project of BOEM, the CA Public Utilities Commission, and the CA Energy Commission, the Offshore Renewable Wind Energy Gateway assembles geospatial information on ocean wind resources, ecological and natural resources, ocean commercial and recreational uses and community values. This information will help identify areas off California that are potentially suitable for wind energy generation.
- The Schatz Center’s new offshore wind energy webpage highlights their studies’ efforts related to potential offshore wind energy development on the northern California coast. Studies include research funded by the Ocean Protection Council, BOEM, the California Governor’s Office of Planning and Research and the California Energy Commission’s (CEC) Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC).